By Ehi Braimah
All of sudden, boundaries around the world have collapsed because of an invisible and deadly enemy known as coronavirus. The feeling you get is that the world is coming to an end because of the panic, fear mongering, a sense of hopelessness and the rising number of infected persons usually announced side by side with the casualties recorded on a scale beyond belief. The whole world is united by a common grief and the resilience of our humanity is tested on a daily basis. We have socially adjusted to the new way of life by staying at home compulsorily with our families to contain the spread of coronavirus. I’m told married women are having the last laugh in this regard.
No one is sure when this pandemic will go away as coronavirus continues to wreak consequential damages in all aspects of our lives. Losing your job, businesses shutting down and dying are now like the new normal because of coronavirus. Every form of death is painful, but death, by its very nature, occurs every day; we have untimely deaths that result from different kinds of accidents and complications arising from medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, hypertension, surgery, diabetes or even suicide cases. But coronavirus is inflicting the greatest fear, pain and emotional torture, which is like dying before the actual death.
From Wuhan in China where this strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) originated to France, Italy, Spain, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, and the rest of the world, the story of agony, pain, distress and inevitable death is the same. By the last time I checked, 46 African countries had recorded cases of coronavirus – this is not a child’s play; coronavirus is real and deadly! As at the time of writing this article, close to 500,000 persons have tested positively to coronavirus globally with over 22,000 deaths. Latest media reports indicate that Wuhan has not reported any new case of coronavirus lately and in about two weeks, life should gradually return to normal in the city.
In the United States, a record 3.28 million Americans filed jobless claims last week – a very frightening statistic and it is the highest jobless claim ever in American history. The US Senate had no choice but to pass legislation for $2.2 trillion stimulus package to prevent the economy from total collapse because of the devastating blow from coronavirus. It is not only in the US that there would be unemployment crisis as millions of jobs are also being lost in other countries and they responding with similar aid packages. Imagine for a moment how many jobs would be lost and the impact on revenue when cinemas, bars, restaurants, gyms, airlines, hotels, etc are closed indefinitely. In order to contain the spread of the virus, these closures are painful but inevitable.
In just five days, the United States recorded over 550 deaths in spite of their best efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. This situation has become deeply troubling as the mortality cases are likely to surpass the deaths in Italy. New York, the Big Apple, has been having a hard time coping with the impact of the deadly scourge as medical supplies, especially testing kits and ventilators, keep running out. Every day, Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, is on television providing updates on their responses to the spread of the virus but it is evident that he is overwhelmed and frustrated with the rising numbers of infected and dead persons. Who wouldn’t be? In spite of the huge challenge, Cuomo has demonstrated effective leadership by taking charge of the situation, especially by boosting hospital capacity.
In Italy and Spain, it has been a relentless battle to also contain the spread of coronavirus with both countries recording a higher number of deaths than China. The United Kingdom is also struggling to minimise the spread resulting in a complete lockdown as you would also find in South Africa, Ghana, Italy, Spain, France, Russia, Germany and the United States. The ExCel Conference Centre in London has been converted into a medical facility and named “Nightingale Hospital” and it is expected to accommodate about 4,000 patients.
According to a news report on CNN, whereas the UK government expected 250,000 volunteers to sign up, over 560,000 Britons have indicated their interest to support the health workers. In France, a high speed train has been converted into a mobile hospital. These are the kind of extra-ordinary efforts being put in place around the world to combat the pandemic, but these are largely country-by-country efforts; a collaboration between countries would result in a coordinated response that may prove to be more effective. Although Russia is also building a new hospital for coronavirus patients, it would appear the country is downplaying the extent of the impact of the virus in much the same way Germany has claimed fewer than 230 deaths from over 39,000 infections.
Clearly, coronavirus has declared war around the world and this explains the encouraging responses we have seen from different world leaders. It was suggested in whispers, even if cheekily without evidence, that coronavirus was the outcome of a biological warfare that ended badly between two super powers who are always at each other’s throat. This would not be the first global health challenge neither would it be the last but it should serve mankind useful lessons. Coronavirus does not recognise the colour of our skin or where we come from – the virus has no respect for borders; it travels everywhere like a ‘free citizen’ of the world without an international or diplomatic passport. The whole world is gripped by fear and panic by this invisible enemy that is less than a shouting distance away from everyone. Coronavirus has no respect for the famous and wealthy or the dregs of society; it is a leveler. Let the people of the world be united more than ever before by God’s love so that we can be our brother’s keeper. As we do in Rotary, let everyone continue to do good throughout the world.
Back home, we have recorded over 50 coronavirus cases in some states and the health authorities, in my view, are rising up to the challenge to contain the spread of the virus. Partial lock downs have become inevitable as you would find in most cities. For everyone’s safety, working from home is being encouraged; salons, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, schools have been closed to contain the spread of the virus. God bless Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, for his kindness and generosity — he donated coronavirus medical supplies which were received in Lagos and Abuja recently.
We have received regular briefings from the Ministry of Health in Abuja and some state governors, especially Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, are leading from the front by creating awareness on the pandemic. From what we now know, the best protection from coronavirus is to self-isolate and stay at home; maintain social distancing and avoid hugs and handshakes. Regular hand wash with soap and the use of hand sanitizers – they are now very expensive – are also very helpful. In addition, seek up-to-date information from credible news outlets on coronavirus and stay safe.
The health authorities say if you feel unwell, stay at home and treat yourself until you recover; it does not matter whether it is a slight headache or running nose. However, if you have cough, fever or experience difficulty in breathing, please call any of the publicised toll free lines to seek medical attention without any delay. Making that call could be the difference between life and death as your healthcare provider will direct you to the right health facility; it will protect you and help prevent the spread of the virus. We must appreciate all the health workers around the world at this time, including volunteers and retired medical personnel who agreed to return to work – they are our heroes!
As we join hands together to overcome the pandemic, the political leadership in Nigeria should understand that coronavirus, as bad as it is, has a useful lesson for us: we must build functional and properly equipped medical facilities in all the local government areas in Nigeria as a matter of national emergency. In normal times, our VIPs travel abroad, sometimes in air ambulance, for treatment when they are unwell because our hospitals are not good enough for them. Let us make Nigeria work for us. It’s possible; let’s do it!
*Braimah is a public relations and marketing strategist based in Lagos